TV Best, April 1956
Curled up on the sofa in her apartment in New York's Upper East Side, Elizabeth Montgomery was talking actors. "Mr. Cooper," she was saying, as she sipped her coffee, "is just wonderful," Her green eyes crinkled a little. "He could say 'I hate you' and smile that smile of his - and everybody'd drop dead."
Liz wasn't long back from Hollywood, where she'd made her first motion picture, "The Court Martial of Billy Mitchell," for Warners - and had been exposed, for the first time, to the charm of its star. It had been only a matter of days before Gary had been added to her personal list of the most talented folk in show business.
She pooh-poohs romance
with him, but says Gig Young's
a "wonderful actor."
At 22, she hasn't been around long enough to consider herself an authority, of course, but she's a girl with a mind of her own, and one which isn't likely to get rusty from disuse.
She's got a list - to which Gary Cooper's name is the latest addition.
She has high praise, too, for Charles Drake though she has worked with him only once on "Studio One." "Incredible charm, great talent, and wonderful to work with," she describes the 41-year-old actor who has made dozens of movies and played in countless TV dramas, including last summer's Robert Montgomery series. "He can handle any sort of role and do it well, His versatility is something that I don't think has been recognized."
On her list, too, is Gig Young, with whom Liz has been linked romantically since her divorce last summer from Frederic G. Cammann, television casting executive. Gig is emceeing the "Warner Bros. Presents" shows on television this season and, being on the same lot while she was making her movie, they very naturally saw a great deal of each other. They're "very good friends," Liz says, and "that's all."
It's not that her brief fling at marriage has embittered her. She doesn't regret it for a minute and admits that she learned a great deal from it. She hopes to marry again and have four children. "And I hope to be a better wife," she says candidly. And quickly turns the conversation to Gig's professional ability.
"He's a wonderful actor," she says eagerly. "He has such talent-amazing depth and such understanding of people, which in this business is of great importance."
She poured a fresh cup of coffee and looked around the living room, charming with its comfortable, lived-in look, its tight little bouquets of unbelievable flowers, a few pieces of old family furniture. In her blouse and skirt, with her naturally blonde hair in its page-boy cut, no makeup except a dash of lipstick, she looked as if she should have been talking tennis rather than acting.
Both as an actor and a director
John Newland rates high on a list
But Liz is no great outdoor girl these days, though she did ride, play tennis and swim with her father when she was growing up in California. At Westlake School, where she was a pupil for 11 years, she hated every sport except field hockey, and was constantly inventing excuses to avoid them. She still laughs about the time she dredged up the old one, "I've sprained my ankle," only to forget which foot she should limp on.
Elizabeth and her younger brother, Robert, Jr., who's now 19, grew up in the midst of Hollywood while their father was one of the biggest stars in the film industry, but their exposures to movie-making were so few they might easily have been living in a suburb of Detroit or Chicago or Kansas City. It wasn't until she came East, was graduated from the Spence School in New York, and was accepted as a student at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, that her father capitulated.
He promised that she could make her professional debut with him, and in 1951, on "Robert Montgomery Presents," she played his daughter in "Top Secret."
It was while she was working in her father's summer series that she met John Newland and added him to her list of "most talented." Working with him for two summers, she began by admiring his acting ability, and when he began to turn his attention to directing, she was doubly impressed. There's always great fun on a set with Johnny, she says, but when he says "All right, work," there's no question about it. Authority from a director is a great asset and Johnny is highly respected by the people who work with him. Even on the first show John directed, it was evident that he had a reason behind everything he did, and the cast quickly recognized it.
She and John are the best of friends though professionally they've had disagreements and quarrels. "But only for good reasons."
She worked with Charles
Drake on one TV show;
she says he has "great talent."
Young Miss Montgomery's list isn't devoted, only to people with whom she's worked. There's Mark Rydell, a young actor who has done a couple of shows for her dad as well as countless others and who has, she thinks, great talent.... There's Sammy Davis, Jr., to whom she could listen all day and all night. "One of the greatest talents of today, who'll be difficult to surpass in his field," she says enthusiastically, "When he imitates another person, he doesn't just imitate the voice, his whole personality changes with each character.
And there's Rosemary Clooney, "out of this world in the easy, relaxing school,"....And Eva Marie Saint, "great , and one of the nicest people I've ever met,"
A little apologetically, she mentions the last name on her list - her father. "After all, I've known him longer than any of the others, and I think he's quite wonderful." There's affection in her voice, but clear thinking in her explanation. "He never makes a move that doesn't mean something. He would sacrifice any move of his for the good of the show, as any good actor would, and he's an incredible perfectionist. "
She didn't mention the word "charm" in connection with her father, but she didn't need to. That commodity, which Montgomery pere has in such quantity, has been passed along to his daughter, along with the modesty which is always a part of it.
Eva Marie Saint is
"simply great, one of the nicest
people I have ever met."
Liz talks freely about her childhood and her growing up, but the talk seems always to wind up with a story of her mistakes, rather than her successes.
There was the time, during a kidnapping scare in California, when her father hired a bodyguard to watch over her and her brother. Liz thought it would be fun to hide, and chose a tiny niche behind the clothes hamper in the bathroom. Frightened at the commotion she had caused, and at her dad's thundering words, "If I ever catch that child, I'll kill her," she stayed for an hour before she was dragged out by the Montgomery's maid. While her mother cried and her father turned an ashen gray, Liz took off like a bird, only to be dragged home for a good walloping.
"I think he's wonderful,"
she says of her dad. "An incredible perfectionist."
"I could listen to him all
day and all night," she
says about Sammy Davis Jr.
"Out of this world" is Liz's
description of Rosemary
There was the time when, at 13, she sneaked out to the kitchen during a party and quickly drained all the champagne glasses, getting violently sick as a result....The secret session with a cigarette at nine, which made her sicker, if possible, than the champagne. . . . There was the time when she was 11 and enamored of a boy down the street, only to have him trip her during a dirt clod fight, from which she emerged with a broken arm.
She really avoided boys like the plague for months after that and when she succumbed to the charms of another, the brother of a girl friend, he paid no attention to her.
"He could say 'I hate you'
with that smile of his, and
everybody'd drop dead." That's
Liz's description of Gary Cooper,
with whom she made her first movie.
These are the things Liz talked about as she sat curled up on her living-room sofa. Not that she'd got her first movie role without any help from her dad, or that she'd been offered, and turned down, long-term movie contracts. Not that, at 22, she has her feet firmly planted on the road to stardom, and that she's done it, for the most part herself, Elizabeth Montgomery might very well be added to a list of "most talented" show folk.